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BlackPast is dedicated to providing reliable information on the history of Black people across the globe, and especially in North America. Our goal is to promote greater understanding of our common human experience through knowledge of the diversity of the Black experience and the ubiquity of the global Black presence.
Celebrating Black Women's Achievements 365 Days of the Year!
As we come to the close of March and a month of centering women’s accomplishments remember that BlackPast.org celebrates Black women’s history every day. This week we shine a spotlight on women in sport to center the unnamed stars of various sporting fields who advanced both female and Black participation in their particular sport. March Madness gives a starting point: basketball, or more specifically, the WNBA! And there is probably no greater fan of this franchise around than BlackPast contributor, Manos Karousos, who has kindly taken time to curate a little history lesson on one of his favorite players, MVP Lusia Mae Harris.
"... long, tall and that's all"
Without a doubt a highlight of any athlete is participation in the Olympic Games, especially when that participation is accompanied by a unique record. At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Canada, Harris scored the first basket in women’s basketball!
Lusia Harris (1955-2022)
The national team lost to the USSR 112-77 but the phenomenal Lusia Mae Harris would come to dominate the sport. You can read more about her life here. Joining the basketball team at Delta State College, based in Cleveland, as a center, Harris was part of a very interesting starting line-up. In her first season in 1973-74 she helped Delta State reach third place in the Inter-State Championship although they did not make it to the Nationals. Playing with the school for over three seasons, Harris became somewhat of a local hero. In the 1974/75 season she led the Lady Statesmen to a nationally televised 90-81 victory over Immaculata College, which had won Nationals each year between 1972-1974. Her statistics were 32 points and 16 rebounds.
Delta State finished the season with a record 28-0. In the final four games of the season Harris scored 136 points and grabbed 63 rebounds and was named the MVP.
The Lady Statesmen won against Immaculata again in 1975/76 with Harris posting a double-double (30 point – 18 rebounds). She won MVP and Mississippi State Female Athlete of the Year. Her final year 1976/1977 was outstanding. In the finals against Louisiana State College, Lusia Mae Harris scored 23 points and saved 16 rebounds. She was again MVP for the season, as well as winning the Honda Sports Award, best female athlete in basketball, and the Broderick Cup best athlete in a women’s sport award.
1977 NBA draft
In 1977 Harris graduated from Delta State College with a degree in physical education and health sciences. That same year she was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz (Utah Jazz) at number 137 of the 7th round. She declined the offer.
To amplify her achievements on the court for those who are not aficionados of the great game: In a total of 115 games, she won 109, scored a total of 2,981 points (25.9 per game) or a quarter of all points scored, and grabbed 1,662 rebounds (14.5 per game). Her record is unlikely to be broken anytime soon.
Watch The Lady Statesmen play Immaculata College in this homemade video from the college's archives.
Minnie Forbes (1932-
Minnie Forbes was one of a few female owners of a Negro League Baseball Team. From 1956-1958 she owned the Detroit Stars. Read about her life here.
Sheila Crump Johnson
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AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY
ACTIVISTS AND ACTIVISM
Global Black History - Anglophone Sphere
Global Black History
Following Jackie Robinson’s successful integration of baseball, the Negro Leagues were left without any talent, and those who did play often did so without any compensation. With fewer people attending their games Negro League owners turned to novelties and promotions to draw fans, and this included women players.
Because the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was never integrated, Black women had no professional league in which to play and had to play in male or recreational leagues, instead. Below, we honor three pioneering women of the Negro Baseball League.
In 1953, Stone became the first woman to play professional baseball in the Negro League when she signed with the Indianapolis Clowns, a team with a reputation like the Harlem Globetrotters.
She took ten years off her age and claimed to have a Master’s degree to add to her appeal. During the season, she even hit a single off Satchel Paige. Stone appeared in fifty games in her first season but was traded during the off-season to the Kansas City Monarchs.
After the 1953-1954 season with the Monarchs, she retired from professional baseball, ending her career with a batting average of .243. Read more about this remarkable woman here.
Mamie Lee Johnson (1935-1917)
Our second Negro League star is Mamie Johnson who was a tryout for the Indianapolis Clowns in September 1953, and won a spot on an upcoming barnstorming trip. Mamie “Peanut” Johnson played for the Clowns from 1953 to 1955, compiling a 33-8 record as a pitcher and a .273 average as a hitter.
Connie Morgan was the third woman to play in the Negro Leagues, joining Syd Pollacks’ Indianapolis Clowns in 1954. Prior to this she played five seasons for the North Philadelphia Honey Drippers, posting a .368 batting average.
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HEY TEACHERS! We’re growing our resources for educators and would like to hear from you about your experiences teaching Black history either in the compulsory or post-secondary sector. What are some best practices you can share? What online and/or physical resources do you find useful. What have been/are the challenges of teaching Black history? Did the pandemic change the environment for content diversity for better or worse? Tag your posts with #BlackPastClassroom and let’s share resources with everyone!